Local government backs marriage equality

In an emotional vote at the National General Assembly (NGA), the local government sector voted in favour of a motion to support marriage equality.

Lord Mayor of City of Darwin, Katrina Fong Lim, raised Motion 50 at the conference, which stated: “That this National General Assembly call on the Federal Government to treat with dignity and respect all members of the community regardless of gender or sexuality by supporting changes to the Marriage Act to achieve marriage equality for same sex couples.”

After impassioned speakers argued the case for both sides, a majority of delegates voted in favour
of the motion.

As per the NGA protocol, the motion was then forwarded to the ALGA board for consideration and it has now been officially resolved.
The City of Darwin voted to support marriage equality in March this year.

Alderman Rebecca Want de Rowe was instrumental in garnering support for the issue within Council.

Prompted by conversations with close gay friends about the lack of acceptance they feel in the community, Alderman Want de Rowe decided to investigate what role Council could play.

“Marriage equality means a lot to me. My best friend is gay and has a beautiful partner and they want to get married some day,” said Alderman Want de Rowe.

“Council policy is about having an inclusive and accepting community…we wanted to let people know that you’re welcome in Darwin, it doesn’t matter your colour or your sexuality.”

The choice for the Council to support marriage equality was met with some initial scepticism: “It was a heated debate, at one point we didn’t have the numbers to get it through,” said Alderman Want de Rowe.  

But an emotional Council meeting drew a large turnout from the public, who shared their experiences.

“A few [aldermen] were encouraged to change their vote after hearing stories of the people in the community.”

Alderman Want de Rowe said she was unable to attend the NGA, but was overwhelmed when she heard that the motion was voted through: “I cried for two hours [after hearing the news].”

The decision sends a strong signal to other levels of government, said Alderman Want de Rowe.

“I think this is a great way to show the Federal Government that it can be easily done.”

Across the local government sector, many have applauded the decision.

The Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) has long been outspoken on the issue of diversity, and coordinates a Rainbow Working Group to promote the participation of LGBTIQ people in
local government.

VLGA President Councillor Sebastian Klein said the passing of the resolution is a significant moment for the community.

“This motion will have a positive and meaningful impact on LGBTI Australians and their families and friends. It is also a clear sign that there is strong support across the community for marriage equality,” said Cr Klein.  

“Local governments recognise that it is their role to stand up against discrimination and advocate for equality for their local residents.”